Since I seem to have a decent handle on running and biking, several people have suggested that I tackle a triathlon in the near future. I admit my weakness in this one, totally overwhelmed by the thought of any type of swimming competition.
That’s why I was I was thrilled to find a way to cut out the swimming requirement, but still take on something new.
I did my first duathlon last year in Waterville Valley and instantly loved the challenge. A duathlon consists of a run, followed by cycling, finished with another run.
The clock starts on the first step of the run and doesn’t stop until you cross the finish line of the second run, adding the challenge of making the transitions from one sport to another – including changing shoes, putting on or taking off a helmet, etc. – as quick as possible.
These events are logistically just like triathlons, but without the wetsuits and fear of drowning. Perfect for me.
I was excited to go back and participate in the Black Bear Duathlon at Waterville Valley again this year. (You can read a detailed recap of my first duathlon here.) However, when I tried to register a few weeks before the event last month, I received a message that the event had been cancelled due to lack of participation.
The cancellation left me a little disappointed – and ready to find a replacement. Luckily, the alternative came quickly. Within a few minutes, I’d signed up for the Rye By The Sea Duathlon.
The Rye event would have participants run a 5K, then bike 17 miles, then run a second 5K.
I was relieved to wake up last Saturday morning to a near-perfect day. Temperatures were cool enough that the run would be comfortable, but not cold enough that the ride would have me shivering. The sun was bright and warm.
My sweetie and I loaded our bikes – very, very early for a Saturday morning – and made the trip to the Seacoast. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of cyclists already in the parking lot, checking their gear and heading to registration to pick up race numbers.
Like most races, the ability and equipment of the participants spanned all of the possibilities, from the super-expensive, all-carbon bikes with racing wheels to the older, heavier steel versions that looked like they’d spent some years in someone’s garage. I even saw a few hybrids. I instantly felt confident that I had a "good" bike - although as I always say, the quality of a bike can only get you so far, at some point, the rider comes into play.
Before the race, organizers reviewed the logistics with the participants – where to enter the transition area, where the 5Ks would start and end – which I thought was a nice touch and better than trying to decipher a confusing course map.
The race started with little fanfare and we made our way to the main road. The route quickly turned into some trails, which was a nice change of scenery, even if I was totally unprepared for a trail run. I'm not used to keeping my eyes so focused on the ground. For the most part, the trails were well maintained, and any obstacles (like protruding routes or rocks) were marked with bright orange paint.
Each mile was marked with a small water stop and a very friendly volunteer. The volunteers, I might add, were one of the highlights of this race – always smiling and clapping and genuinely looking like they were enjoying themselves.
The rest of the course took us through trails, across some wooden foot bridges and eventually back to the starting area where we’d enter the transition zone to do the quick change and grab our bikes.
The clock read 24:55 as I crossed the line for the first 5K - which was a 5K PR for me!
From there, I found my bike hanging on the rack in the transition zone, my equipment and gear laid out neatly on a towel beside it. After a quick change of shoes and a snap of the helmet, I jumped on the bike and headed off.
The bike route took us along the ocean, where we enjoyed a great tailwind. Score! More than a few times, I looked down at the speedometer of my bike and thought there must be something wrong. I don't ride that fast, I thought.
From time to time, I clicked over to check my average speed - which at its highest read 18.5 mph. Average speed. Again, I'm not that kind of rider. I wondered how fast my sweetie must be flying, if I was seeing speeds 2-3 mph above my norms.
After 17 miles of cycling back to the transition zone, I once again changed into my running shoes for the second 5K. My only complaint with the race is that there wasn't a second timing mat coming out of or into the transition area after the bike - meaning my fastest speeds by bike are not officially recorded. The official bike time includes the two transitions. Even with those, I averaged 16.3 mph - a pretty fast ride for me.
I was pleased to learn that the second run would have us do the 5K course in the opposite direction, which took away some of the monotony of running the same 5K twice.
The second run wasn't as unbearable as I'd remembered from last year's duathlon where I thought that someone had somehow replaced my legs with cement pillars. This year, I think the lack of hills on the ride really helped the transition to the second run.
The second run was relatively uneventful, passing the same happy volunteers at the water stations. I was able to chase down and pass a few people, which made me smile on the inside.
I made the turn to the finish and saw my sweetie standing on the sidelines. Of course, he'd finished way before me - nailing two awesomely fast 5Ks (without really training for running at all!) and an impressive bike leg.
I happily crossed the finish line - finishing in 1:52:01 - as participants who finished before me clapped on the sidelines. The support of other racers is an aspect to running events that I love. Soon, I joined them on the sidelines and watched as the participants crossed the finish line. The cheers were the loudest as a 70-something-year-old man finished.
The idea of a duathlon was a little scary at first. I didn’t know if I’d fit in, know what to do to even enjoy it. I can say without a doubt now that it an event that I want to do again.
The only problem is that there aren’t more of them in the area. Someone needs to fix that.